The top space stories of the week! –

Martian dirt was too powdery for a NASA rover to scoop, spacesuit delays mean that NASA’s Artemis program goal of reaching the moon by 2024 is not feasible and the Japanese-European spacecraft BepiColombo flies past Venus while capturing amazing views. These are some of the top stories this week from 

Martian dirt was too powdery for Perseverance to collect. 

The first borehole drilled by NASA’s Perseverance rover. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)

NASA’s Perseverance rover made its first attempt to collect a Martian dirt sample on Aug. 6. However, Perseverance’s team found that the sample tubes were actually empty the morning after the collection maneuver. The team concluded that this particular patch of Mars had dirt that was too powdery to be successfully collected. 

Full Story: Perseverance Mars rover fumbled 1st sampling attempt because of ‘unique’ powdery rock, NASA finds

See also: NASA’s Mars helicopter spots its Perseverance rover pal from above in an epic view (video)

Spacesuit delay means 2024 lunar landing is not an option. 

Kristine Davis, a spacesuit engineer at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, wearing a ground prototype of NASA’s new Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU), is seen during a demonstration of the suit, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019 at NASA Headquarters in Washington. (Image credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

A lunar landing in the year 2024 is not feasible, according to a new report from NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). NASA’s Inspector General audited the space agency’s next-generation spacesuits that would be worn for the Artemis Program, and found that NASA faced significant challenges to get suits to be flight ready by November 2024. The report was released on Tuesday (Aug. 10). 

Full story: US astronaut moon landing ‘not feasible,’ by 2024 due to spacesuit delay, NASA’s inspector general finds

Scientists fine-tune the miniscule odds that asteroid Bennu would hit Earth in 2300. 

An image of the asteroid Bennu produced by the OSIRIS-REx mission. (Image credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona)

Scientists found that the chances of near-Earth asteroid Bennu striking our planet in the year 2300 are smaller than previously thought. NASA sent its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft to Bennu, where it spent more than two years orbiting and sampling the rock. The observations have allowed scientists to fine-tune their earlier predictions, but don’t worry: the risk of impact was already very small, even before the update. 

Full story: Scientists fine-tune odds of asteroid Bennu hitting Earth through 2300 with NASA probe’s help

No new launch date for Starliner, nine out of 13 valves repaired. 

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft aboard is seen as it is rolled back to the Vertical Integration Facility from the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 to avoid inclement weather, Friday, July 30, 2021 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. (Image credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky)

Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft couldn’t travel to the International Space Station this month because of valve issues. According to a company statement released on Thursday (Aug. 12), Boeing’s teams have repaired nine of the 13 problematic valves. The valves belonged to the spacecraft’s propulsion system and they were not opening as designed. Currently, Starliner has no new launch date for its Orbital Flight Test 2 (OFT-2) mission. 

Full story: Stuck valves on Boeing’s Starliner keep critical space station test flight on hold

S.S. Ellison Onizuka reaches the International Space Station. 

The Northrop Grumman Cygnus NG-16 cargo ship S.S. Ellison Onizuka is captured by a robotic arm as it arrived at the International Space Station on Aug. 12, 2021 to deliver its heaviest NASA load yet. (Image credit: NASA TV)

The Cygnus NG-16 spacecraft, also called the S.S. Ellison Onizuka, arrived at the International Space Station this week with the largest NASA cargo haul ever. The supply ship reached the space station on Thursday (Aug. 12) as it flew over the Atlantic Ocean near Portugal. It launched two days prior (Aug. 10) to deliver more than 8,200 lbs. (3,720 kilograms) of supplies. This Cygnus is named after the first Asian American astronaut, Ellison Onizuka, who tragically died in the Challenger disaster in 1986. 

Full story: Cygnus cargo ship arrives at International Space Station with its biggest NASA haul ever

BepiColombo swung past Venus this week. 

The European/Japanese spacecraft BepiColombo has taken a selfie with Venus during its close flyby at the planet in August 2021. (Image credit: ESA)

The BepiColombo spacecraft from Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the European Space Agency (ESA) captured incredible views of Venus as it flew past on Tuesday (Aug. 10) on its way to Mercury. The BepiColombo team created a new video, released on Thursday (Aug. 13), by combining 89 images taken by the spacecraft during its Venutian visit. This is BepiColombo’s second flyby of Venus. 

Full story: Watch the BepiColombo probe zoom by Venus on its way to Mercury in this new video

Wildfires are breaking records, and satellites are watching. 

Earth observation satellites of U.S operator Maxar Technologies captured detailed images of devastating fires raving northern California. The images, taken on Sunday, August 8, show areas hit by the Dixie wildfire, the second most devastating wildfire in California’s history. This infrared image shows the area around Lake Almanor struck by the devastating Dixie Fire. (Image credit: Maxar Technologies)

The wildfires of 2021 are breaking records, and satellites are keeping track of their spread. Satellites from Europe’s Copernicus constellation and U.S. Earth observation company Maxar Technologies have been monitoring the wildfires so that scientists can collect data about their location and the carbon they are releasing into the atmosphere. The new records are sobering: the Dixie Fire in northern California is now the largest in the state’s history, and wildfires across the planet have already broken annual records for fire-related emissions of greenhouse gases.

Full story: The devastating wildfires of 2021 are breaking records and satellites are tracking it all

SpaceX may launch a Canadian satellite that would air ads from space. 

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the GPS III SV04 satellite for the U.S. Space Force stands atop Space Launch Complex 40 of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida for an October 2020 launch. (Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX plans to launch a satellite from Canadian startup Geometric Energy Corp. into space. According to Business Insider, the cubesat is an advertisement-beaming satellite that would eventually accept payments via the cryptocurrency Dogecoin. The mission was disclosed publicly in May, but the advertising part of the satellite’s role was not. SpaceX plans to launch the satellite in early 2022. 

Full story: Elon Musk’s SpaceX may launch a tiny Canadian satellite that will livestream ads from space: report

Indian rocket and satellite lost in launch failure. 

An Indian GLSV rocket carrying the EOS-O3 Earth observation satellite for the Indian Space Research Organisation lifts off from Second Launch Pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on Sriharikota Island, India on Aug. 12, 2021. It failed to reach orbit. (Image credit: ISRO)

An Earth-observing satellite for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) was lost when the Indian rocket that launched it on Thursday (Aug. 12) suffered an anomaly. The failure happened sometime past the six-minute mark of the rocket’s flight. Thursday’s liftoff of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle was India’s first launch this year. 

Full story: Indian rocket suffers catastrophic failure during launch, Earth-watching satellite lost

First female Arab astronaut gears up for more training. 

Nora AlMatrooshi and Mohammad AlMulla have been selected as the new astronaut candidates for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) corps. They will train at NASA's Johnson Space Center.

Nora AlMatrooshi and Mohammad AlMulla have been selected as the new astronaut candidates for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) corps. They will train at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.  (Image credit: MBRSC)

Mechanical engineer Nora AlMatrooshi and helicopter pilot Mohammad AlMulla are the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) newest astronauts. Their training currently involves preliminary training activities in the UAE, like studying Russian and learning to dive. Their training will soon take them to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Texas for two years. When she eventually flies, AlMatrooshi will become the first female Arab astronaut. 

Full story: The United Arab Emirates has 2 new astronauts. They’re shooting for the moon

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